The Volatility of US Hegemony in Latin America – The Pink Tide Surges, 2018-2022

Latin America and the Caribbean have once again begun to take on a rosy hue, all the more so with Colombia’s historic June election victory over the country’s dominant US-backed right and a similar reversal in Brazil in October. This right-wing electoral setback follows leftist victories last year in Peru , Honduras and Chile, which in turn followed similar failures in Bolivia in 2020, Argentina in 2019 and Mexico in 2018.

By Roger D. Harris

This electoral wave, according to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who spoke at the climate summit in November, “is open[s] A new geopolitical era for Latin America.” This “pink tide” challenges US hemispheric hegemony, whose pedigree dates back to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

tidal wave

The metaphor of the “pink tide” aptly describes the ebb and flow of the ongoing class conflict between the minister of imperialism and the popular forces of the region. Back in 1977, the region was ruled by the “rule of the generals”. The infamous US Operation Condor supported outright military dictatorships in all of South America, with the exception of Colombia and Venezuela, and much of Central America.

Then the tide began to turn with the election of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1998. By 2008, almost the entire region was in the pink with the notable exceptions of Colombia, Mexico and a few others. A decade later, a conservative backlash left Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and a handful of other countries on the progressive side. But that was supposed to change by mid-2018.

Mexico

The first flush of pink for the current wave begins on July 1, 2018, with Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s crushing victory in Mexico. Many believe his two previous presidential runs were stolen from him. Affectionately known by the acronym AMLO, his broad coalition under the newly formed MORENA party swept the national, state and municipal offices and ended 36 years of neoliberal rule.

Mexico’s list on the left was significant. It is the second largest economy in the region and the thirteenth largest in the world. Mexico is the second largest trading partner of the US after Canada and before China.

AMLO has made important foreign policy initiatives independent, indeed defiant, of the US. He conspicuously invited Venezuelan President Maduro as guest of honor to a major Mexican holiday celebration. When Biden called a “democracy summit” for the hemisphere last June, he did not invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. , AMLO bravely led a boycott that largely sabotaged the affair, and AMLO was a strong supporter of regional integration to promote CELAC and other multinational institutions.

Argentina

A year after AMLO’s rise, the right-wing Mauricio Macri was replaced by the left-wing Peronist Alberto Fernandez on October 27, 2019. The shift from right to left was a repudiation of Macri’s submission to the IMF and austerity economic policies, which had created mass opposition.

Bolivia

Two weeks after the elections in Argentina, the left suffered a severe blow on November 10, 2019, when a coup deposed left-wing president Abu Morales in Bolivia. The coup was supported by the US in partnership with the Organization of American States (OAS) under the leadership of Luis Almagro, a handful of Yankees.

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Abu, as he is popularly known, was the first indigenous president of the majority indigenous country. He barely escaped the violence of the coup when a plane provided by AMLO took him to safety in Mexico.

Abu’s vindication came a year later on October 18, 2020, when fellow Movement for Socialism (MAS) party Luis Ersa won back the presidency in a landslide. Abu then returned from exile and has since held an international role as a speaker on climate change, regional integration, indigenous rights and other left-wing issues.

Peru

Then seven months later, a man from a Marxist-Leninist party took the presidency in Peru on June 6, 2021. When rural teacher and strike leader Pedro Castillo emerged as one of the two contenders in the first round of presidential elections, he was virtually unknown. The international press even struggled to find a picture of the future president.

Castillo won the last election round against the hard-right Keiko Fujimori. Castillo’s victory spelled the end of the Lima Group, a coalition of anti-Venezuelan states. Strategically, the Pacific Rim of South America, once populated entirely by right-wing allies of the US, now had a leftist in its midst.

Nicaragua

The left trend solidified another five months after the success in Peru, when the ruling Sandinista party (FSLN) in Nicaragua swept the national elections on November 7, 2021. A year later, on November 6, 2022, the Sandinistas were even more widely approved. of the municipal elections.

Nicaragua has recovered from a failed violent coup attempt in 2018 involving the Catholic Church and other right-wing elements. After failing to achieve regime change by helping to instigate and back the coup, the US has since tightened the economic screws on the hemisphere’s third-poorest country while strengthening unilateral coercive measures.

Despite illegal US sanctions designed to punish its people, the socialist government has done so much with so little. Nicaragua’s economic growth of 8.3% during the pandemic is among the highest in the region and indeed the world.

Nicaragua is the safest in the entire region and among the safest in the world. Education and health care are free. With the best roads in Central America, the once neglected and isolated Caribbean coast is now more fully integrated with the rest of the country. And an unprecedented 30% of the national territory is in autonomous regions for indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants. Contrary to American propaganda, polls show that President Daniel Ortega is popular among his voters.

Venezuela

Then two weeks after the leftist election was approved in Nicaragua, the same thing happened again in Venezuela. The ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) swept the regional and legislative elections on November 21, 2021.

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Although the US and a handful of its staunchest allies still recognize Trump-anointed Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president,” the vast majority of countries accept Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate president. The hapless Mr. Guaido has the highest approval ratings of any potential opposition presidential candidate in the – 2024. While polls show that if snap elections were held, Maduro would win.

Meanwhile, Biden, under pressure to ease domestic fuel shortages, is slightly easing Trump’s draconian sanctions. Chevron returns to limited operations in Venezuela and some of the “hijacked” Venezuelan assets worth $20 billion in foreign banks are released for humanitarian projects.

Honduras

Only a week after the elections in Venezuela, the sweetest victory of the left was achieved. Shiumera Castro became the first woman elected president in the history of Honduras on December 1, 2021. Her husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a coup on June 28, 2009, orchestrated by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Castro replaced over 12 years of “narcotic dictatorship”, a worthy defiance endorsed by the US government itself. Back in 2009, the facts were so clear that even partner Obama had to admit that Zelaya had been ousted in a “coup”, though he observed In that there was no “military” coup.

The US then supported a series of illegitimate presidents, including the most recent past president Juan Orlando Hernandez, with generous military, financial and political support. Even the OAS, which is actually an arm of the US masquerading as a multinational body, questioned the validity of his election. Then once Castro won, “JOH” was quickly extradited to the US and thrown in jail for importing massive amounts of cocaine into the US.

Formerly known as the “USS Honduras” for its role as the US surrogate in Central America, the new Castro presidency will chart a new course for Honduras.

Chile

Less than two weeks after the defeat of the right in Honduras, Gabriel Boric won the presidency of Chile on December 19, 2021, campaigning under the slogan “Neoliberalism was born in Chile and here it will die.” He replaced the right-winger Sebastian Piñera who, by the way, was the richest man in Chile.

A former student leader turned politician, the 36-year-old Boric emerged from the mass anti-neoliberal protests of 2019 and 2021, which mobilized much of Chile’s population. Borik defeated the candidate of the Communist Party in the Progressive Apruebo Dignidad The primaries in the coalition and went on to defeat José Antonio Cast in the presidential elections.

To call it an extreme right-wing caste would be an understatement. Sometimes left-wing rhetoric too loosely accuses opponents of being fascists. In the case of Kast and his politically active siblings, however, the term is entirely appropriate. Their father came from Germany and was actually a member of the Nazi Party.

Colombia

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What happened next was truly historic. Former left-wing guerrilla (since moderated toward the center-left) Gustavo Petro and his deputy Francia Marques, an environmentalist of Afro descent, were the first progressives ever to win in Colombia on June 19.God’ of this year. their Pacto Histórico The coalition emerged from the massive popular protests of 2019 and 2020, which featured indigenous and Afro-descendant participation.

Colombia, once known as the “Israel of Latin America,” has long been the U.S.’s top regional client state and the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere. This election promises to upend that role and say goodbye to influential right-wing former president Alvaro Uribe and his successors.

Outgoing right-wing president Ivan Duca also made history as Colombia’s least popular president. He immediately joined the right-wing Wilson Center in Washington, changing job titles but not, in fact, employers.

Brazil

Colombia was a huge sensation in the region, but what happened in Brazil was a crashing tidal wave of global proportions.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known colloquially as Lula, was first elected in 2003 and left the presidency in 2010 with rising popularity ratings. He was succeeded by a member of the Hapoalim Party, Dilma Rousseff, who was re-elected in 2014. Two years later, the right-wing legislature used “the law” to remove her from office.

Lola was then a victim of the trials himself. Despite being the most popular presidential candidate, he spent April 2018 to November 2019 in prison. This allowed Jair “Tropical Trump” Bolsonaro to seize the presidency. Then in a spectacular comeback, Lula defeated Bolsonaro in the next presidential contest on October 31, 2022.

Sea change in Latin America and the Caribbean

The progressive victories in the elections decisively tilt the regional geopolitical balance towards the port. The ranking by size of the largest regional economies is Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Peru – all of which are now on the left side of the ledger. Brazil’s economy is the eighth largest economy in the world.

The inclusion of Brazil in the BRICS transcontinental alliance heralds a multipolar international independence emerging from the West. Originally comprising Russia, India, China and South Africa, BRICS+ may expand to include Argentina, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and others.

Lola campaigned to create a regional currency, SUR. Maduro also called for a regional currency, which would challenge the dominance of the US dollar.

Lula, Maduro and their fellow travelers promise to be spokespeople for the poor at home, for regional integration (reviving UNASUR and strengthening MERCOSUR), and globally for multilateralism (addressing climate change and perhaps even helping broker peace in Ukraine).

To be continued…

Part II refers to the explicitly socialist countries (Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua), the lessons of Haiti and the emerging role of China.


Roger D. Harris Is with the Human Rights Organization Task Force on AmericaFounded in 1985.

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